Not that long ago one of my sons walked up out of nowhere and asked “daddy are you proud of me for working out?”. For reference, I had just got done working out in our backyard and he was out there with me running around. I was kind of caught off guard because he had never asked me that question before. I said “yea Buddy I’m proud of you”
But I felt a responsibility to let him know that I was proud of him for things much more important than working out. Like the way that he is kind and helps his siblings. How he leads the way in following directions with a great attitude. The way I see him working hard in school. There’s so much more I would want him to know that I’m proud of him for than simply working out.
That short conversation got me thinking about affirmation and its importance. It’s worth noting that we shouldn’t live off the words of others but also worth understanding that our words have weight and value in the hearts of others. We’ve all probably been on the other side of people's words that broke us in a way. But I wonder how many people experience the power of genuine affirmation on the regular? When was the last time that someone spoke life-giving words into your life? When was the last time you spoke into someone else’s life?
Just the other day I had an opportunity to talk to a friend I hadn’t talked to in quite a while. I’ve always admired him for his creativity and courage to step into new ventures. I had an opportunity in the conversation where I felt that I could affirm him as a person. The encounter with my son was still sticking with me and so I went for it. It wasn’t elaborate or crafty but it was genuine. His response solidified my thought on the importance of affirming others. My 31-year-old friend, on a video call, started to cry. “Nobody’s ever told me that before”. What?! No one has ever told this creative, focused, risk-taking entrepreneur that they’re proud of him? To be honest, the thought of it pissed me off. Here’s an outstanding man who’s taking care of his mom, chasing his dreams, and constantly caring for others, and not one person is stopping to give the guy a genuine pat on the back.
There’s plenty of reasons actually. But let’s call some out so we can start heading in the right direction. For fun (so fun) I’m going to list the ones that I have personally struggled with.
Some Reasons Why People (Me) Don’t Affirm Others:
1. Too Self-Focused
I’m being careful not to call it selfish or prideful or even self-centered because I’ve met many people who love people but aren’t aware that most of their focus is on their selves. If we can get past focusing so much on ourselves it can free us to be more aware of others. This is a big and important step. When we become more aware it allows us to actually see people for who they are. That insight is how we can start the process of genuinely affirming someone.
2. Too Insecure
One of the most crippling thoughts that pass many people's minds is “What will they think of me?” or “How will they react?”. It can be uncomfortable to give someone else affirmation when you’re not secure in yourself. There’s also this lie that can stop us from adding value to others if we let it. It’s this idea that if you affirm someone that it means you think you’re above where they’re at currently in life. It’s a crap lie that’s stopping you from pouring life into someone else. If you’re going to give a meaningful, past surface level, affirmation to someone it will require a level of courage. As encouragement, I’d ask you to think of it from their perspective. Not everyone wants grand gestures and public affirmation but it’s hard to find a person who doesn’t appreciate an accurate, heart level, recognition of the positive things about them.
3. Too Busy
One of the greatest, self-imposed, obstacles to intimacy in relationships is being too busy. Hurry is what gets me personally. Every night I have an opportunity to pour life into my kids. What happens more than I want to admit is that I’m in such a hurry to get some “me time” that I rush the bedtime process. I’m rushing through one of the best opportunities to slow down and be intentional with my kids. And for what? Some time to myself on the couch? Doesn’t seem like a great exchange. This can happen anywhere and with anyone. Consider taking an honest look at your interactions with people. Are they mostly rushed? Then you might be too busy with tasks and not giving any room in your day to connect. If you don’t leave time for connection then you’re definitely not going to be able to have those times to pour into someone.
So once we can recognize an opportunity to affirm someone, how do we do it?
It’s pretty simple actually. Keep it authentic and specific. Also, being specific about how they add value to those around them is encouraging.
Here’s how simple (not always easy) it can be:
“I see that you put a lot into your work. I really appreciate that about you and it encourages me to do the same.”
“The way you are with your kids inspires me to slow down. I see how they want to be around you and I desire that connection with my kids. You’re a great mom and I want you to know it.”
“Hey, I just want you to know that I always enjoy my time around you. Your attitude towards life is contagious. Your positivity is something I want to live out in my life.”
Our words can build or break others. My challenge to you is to try to affirm 3 people this week. Hint: Try one person at home, one at work, and one in your friend group.
I hope this has added value to you! As always if you have found this helpful please subscribe and share to the Strong and Steady! You can also follow me on Instagram at @raymillsap